Court rejects US wireless carriers' appeal on taxes

In a loss for wireless communications providers, the US Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling preventing the industry from listing taxes and other government fees as separate line items on consumers' bills, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA, which is owned by Deutsche Telecom, asked the justices to overturn the ruling.

They said in court papers that state and local governments try to 'hide' taxes and fees by barring carriers from listing them as separate items, requiring the companies instead to fold them in with the rest of their charges, the report said.

Consumer advocates, who support the lower court's ruling, responded that wireless companies frequently add a confusing array of charges that are not always the result of government taxes, the Associated Press report said.

Such complaints led the Federal Communications Commission to extend 'truth in billing' rules to cell phones in 2005, the report said.

The legal question in dispute is whether the FCC was correct when it ruled in 2005 that federal law prohibits the states from barring separate line items, the Associated Press report said.

Federal communications law bars state regulation of rates but allows states to regulate 'other terms and conditions' of service, the report said.

The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the FCC in 2006, ruling that line items on bills were 'other terms and conditions' that states could prohibit.

The justices' decision allows that ruling to stand.